Washington Post: Maryland to Junk Troubled Obamacare Website

Saturday, 29 Mar 2014 05:55 PM

By Todd Beamon

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After spending more than $125.5 million in taxpayer money, Maryland is expected to scrap its glitch-ridden Obamacare website and replace it with technology from Connecticut's exchange, The Washington Post reports.

The move is expected to come in a vote Tuesday by the board overseeing the Maryland exchange — the day after the first Obamacare open-enrollment period ends, according to two unnamed sources cited by the Post.

"We still have stuck applications," Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley told reporters at a news conference on Friday. "We still wrestle with it every day.

"The clock was ticking, and we have been changing the flat tires on this rolling car for the last five, going on six months now," he added, according to the Post. "And it has gotten better with every new fix applied to it, [but it is] still not working as it was supposed to work."

Known as Maryland Health Connection, the exchange has had huge technical problems since it went online with the individual mandate on Oct. 1. The problems mirrored the many technical glitches of the national HealthCare.gov site, which covers 36 states that do not have their own health exchanges.

In fact, Maryland Rep. Andy Harris called for a federal investigation into the state's website this month after learning that officials knew before the site went online that it would not operate properly.

"It crashed. It crashed in the first few hours on Oct. 1, and has never really regained usefulness," the GOP congressman told "America's Newsroom" on Fox News Channel.

"The preliminary investigation that was done in Maryland, which was stopped earlier this year, indicated that they were told by all the contractors and the vendors this was not going to work. It was not ready," he charged. "And they decided to forge ahead anyway."

Harris called on the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services to review the website and its contractors. The probe was necessary, he said, because "no one in Maryland was taking a look."

"The state refuses to investigate on its own. This is a one-party-run state," he said, referring to Democrats.

Dori Henry, a Maryland Health spokeswoman, told the Post that no decision would be made until the board vote. "There will not be anything further coming from the state until a decision is made," she said.

The state has spent $125.5 million on the exchange, Henry said.

As of last Saturday, 49,293 Maryland residents had enrolled in a private plan through the exchange, the Post reports. That fell far short of the original 150,000-enrollment goal — as well as the revised estimate of 75,000 to 100,000 residents.

But Maryland residents will still be able to use the exchange during the expected overhaul. The enrollment period that began on Oct. 1 ends Monday, while the next round starts on Nov. 15.

According to the Post, Connecticut was among several states that built its own Obamacare exchange — and it has worked smoothly. Maryland is among several states that have had problems with their exchanges, including Oregon, Minnesota and Hawaii.

Oregon's exchange had so many technical problems that almost all of the 50,000 people who signed up for coverage through the exchange did so using paper applications or with help from a professional.

Both Oregon and Massachusetts are considering junking their exchange systems and join HealthCare.gov.

Kevin Counihan, chief executive of the Connecticut exchange, Access Health CT, said his staff has been talking for months with at least five states about selling its technology.

The state could do an entire exchange, or just the back-office work of calculating government subsidies for individual Obamacare plans and sending transaction forms to insurers, he said.

Counihan told the Post that any information on the Maryland situation would have to come from officials there.

"A lot of states will be watching them and watching to see what they do," he said.

Reuters contributed to this repor
t.

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